The Impact of Small Self-Imposed Rules

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About a month ago, I instituted a couple of small rules to my daily routine:

  • A limit of two drinks per day.
  • No eating after 9PM.

There have been a few days when I didn’t abide by these rules. One day, I had an extra glass of beer. Another day, I ate a small snack around 10PM. But for the most part, I’ve been strict with myself, and I couldn’t be happier about the results.

I decided to put these rules into effect on a Sunday morning. I came across a New York Times article about the dangers of eating late. The previous night, I had gone out to dinner with Melanie and eaten a very big dinner after 10PM. It was a very salty meal, so I washed everything down with a couple of beers. I remember feeling very uncomfortable as I got ready for bed a few hours later, not fully digested and feeling bloated. I woke up feeling even more bloated and very dehydrated. The article, which linked late dinnertimes with an increased occurrences of acid reflux (and increased risk of esophageal cancer), made me rethink my dining habits. The article recommended at least 3 or more hours of clearance between dinner and bedtime. I realized that I often ate dinner after 9 or 10PM. With bedtime being around 12:30AM or 1AM, that didn’t give me much time to digest.

In addition to adjusting my dinnertime, I also took a hard look at my drinking habits. I was accustomed to having a couple of beers after work. On some days, I would go home and grab another beer or cocktail at Sidecar, where Melanie and I go once or twice a week. When I went out to social events after work, I would consume as many as 6-8 drinks over the course of the night. While my intake overall had decreased from my mid-twenties, I felt that I was still imbibing too much. I always regretted waking up with the taste of alcohol in my mouth.

I thought about why I drank so much at social events. I’m past the point where I need alcohol as a social lubricant. I don’t mind talking to new people, and I don’t think drinking makes me any more interesting. But out of habit, I was accustomed to having a drink in my hand at all times and continually took sips throughout conversations, especially when I listened. After adopting my 2-drink rule, I decided to swap out alcohol for glasses of water or club soda. This has been remarkably effective. The drink in my hand serves the same purpose I had been using alcohol to do without the side effects.

So what’s changed since I adopted my two small rules? I feel great when I wake up each morning. I’m not bloated or dehydrated. It’s been fairly easy to eat dinner before 9PM. I’m also very excited for breakfast each morning since my last meal would have been over 12 hours ago.

I also enjoy drinking a lot more. Knowing that I have a two-drink limit, I try to be careful about what I drink. I savor my cocktails and take my time with pints of beer. On some days, I don’t feel the need to drink at all.

With the holidays coming up, I know there will be plenty of temptations. My defense will be to think about my mornings and how lovely it is to wake up fresh and sprightly. And also to think of rewarding myself with a huge, delicious breakfast.

Update 2/10/15: I’ve lost nearly 15 lbs in the past two months. I think the drink maximum limit has been the biggest difference. I’ve also stopped snacking on sugary treats during the day. I also increased my intake of greens. On some days, I don’t even want to touch alcohol, which is a far cry from where I was a couple months ago.

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